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More people landed jobs in Washington last month. More wound up jobless, too.


More people landed jobs in Washington last month. More wound up jobless, too.

Apr 29, 2024 | 7:15 pm ET
By Jerry Cornfield
More people landed jobs in Washington last month. More wound up jobless, too.
(Getty Images)

Washington’s economy added jobs in March. But its labor pool shrunk and the number of jobless grew as well. 

The combined result was an uptick in the state’s unemployment rate, according to the latest monthly report from the Employment Security Department.

The economy grew by 5,300 jobs, with the private sector accounting for 2,900 and the government sector the remainder. It’s a bit more than February, continuing the “slow and steady” growth experienced in recent months, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, ESD’s chief labor economist.

Overall, job growth is proceeding at a slower pace than the period of historically high job openings coming out of the pandemic, she said. Even with the current tight labor market, people who are looking for work are, for the most part, finding work, she said. 

Jobs increased in eight major industry sectors last month with the largest gains in professional and business services, wholesale trade, finance, and educational and health services.

Leisure and hospitality businesses and construction firms recorded losses. So too did specialty trade contractors, which covers businesses such as pouring concrete, plumbing, painting, and electrical work. They shaved 3,000 jobs last month, the ESD report shows.

The number of jobless increased by 3,510 in March, pushing the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to 4.8%, a tenth of a point higher than February. The nation’s unemployment rate was 3.8% last month. 

Ferry County had the top unemployment rate at 11.9% with the neighboring counties of Stevens (8.1%) and Okanogan (7.3%) not far behind. King and Snohomish counties each recorded the lowest rates at 4.1%.

As of mid-April, Washington paid unemployment benefits to 67,175 people, roughly a third of those who reported seeking but not finding a job, according to ESD data.

And overall, the state’s labor force numbered 4,019,937 in March, a decrease of 7,361 workers from February, according to ESD figures.

Labor force represents the total number of people over the age of 16, both employed and unemployed, who are working or seeking work. Thus, a person who is laid off but still actively looks for a job is considered part of the labor force. A drop in the labor force means people have left work and haven’t been trying to secure employment for more than four weeks.

Nationally, participation in the labor force reached its highest levels in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Vance-Sherman said. Since then it’s declined as Baby Boomers retire.